Does health just "happen", or is it something we cultivate?
Who is responsible for this cultivation?
I like to dream of a paradisiacal place where health just happens. We have amazing genes, all food is healthy, we don’t work too hard, relationships are nourishing, and movement is a natural part of the day. I have a feeling even in this sort of place things might take some working out. And we do know that in our current circumstances and surround, we do need to pay attention and cultivate our health. Who is responsible for this cultivation?
Let’s back it up to our beginnings. The only possible way of coming into this world is through touch. Our nervous systems are wired for touch, at our very beginnings we only receive food through safe touch. Our nerves calm and settle through safe contact. Dominique Degranges, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist and founder of Da Sein Institut in Switzerland, talks about the idea that to live well both our existential needs of being met and seen for who we are by others, and our very real physical needs of survival in a body need to be met:
“What is interesting in touch is that you will have the meeting of existential and survival.”
The link between touch and our quality of survival in life is sadly outlined in The American Psychological Association’s article “The Lasting Impact of Neglect” by Kirsten Weir. Click Here for full article. The article cites research that follows institutionalized children who do not receive touch, and the ongoing negative effects it has had on their brain, development, and quality of life. Clearly, to flourish, we need caring touch as well as other survival needs being met.
What about personal responsibility? Even though we enter the world through touch, we all go through periods of individuation. Have you met a two year old or a teen? As uncomfortable as these ages can be, it's an important time to figure out “what’s mine and what’s yours”. Optimally we get to figure out our place in the world and how to take responsibility for ourselves. In life there is a natural rhythm of coming into contact with other and connecting and feeling wholeness in the wider world, and turning inward and settling into our core being and wholeness as self. A dance that folds and unfolds throughout life.
I like the model of meeting oneself where one is at. What are current needs in real time? What is one currently capable of doing on one’s own, and what resources can we accept from family, and/or our wider support network and community? Is it time to look inward or reach outward? And what is actually available, inward and outward? And is there a possibility of widening these internal and external resources.
In clinical practice, we all have clients we see on a regular basis. Sometimes we recognize a client has a need that goes beyond our scope. And so, in collaboration with our client we figure out needs and referrals. We offer the support that our own practice and clinic offers, and we tap into the wider community for greater support when needed. Some of the best clinical results I’ve seen have been a collaborative process.
As a young mother I felt guilt when I couldn’t fulfill all my child’s needs on my own. One day at a doctor’s appointment, the light went on. We as parents were never meant to do this wholly on our own. I developed a gratefulness for all sorts of community support.
Responsibility for health is complex. Sometimes health is wonderfully supported by communities in ways that make personal responsibility easy. There are times when we feel our communities have failed us, and times when we feel beautifully supported. Rather than wishing for perfection, I hope we stay curious and ask good questions and keep working together to understand both our own needs and the needs of others.
Weather at home or at work, let us remember:
“When you touch one thing with deep awareness, you touch everything” ~ Lao Tzu
Picture by- Pascal Bernardon